Private Property & Consumer Rights

Dmitri Prieto

Cuban collective taxi.

One time I had an argument with a private taxi driver, and from that moment on I knew I’d never get in his cab again, even if when there’s not another one.  The personal relationship took precedence over the economic one.

One of the reasons for the conflict was the fact that the taxi driver made a woman with a little girl get out of the taxi; it seems that his cousin appeared on the street and he decided to give her a lift.

I ask, is a private business that provides a public service entirely to the owner’s whim?  Shouldn’t the owners/drivers be subordinated to certain norms or social standards, even if these are informal?

In my opinion, any driver or owner of a private car who lends taxi services should provide service to anyone who can pay for it and treat them in a courteous and respectful manner.

I know perfectly well that this is regulated in other countries.  I know that people are careful that private property is not used to discriminate against people for reasons other than those that are strictly economic (i.e. the monetary ability to pay for the service).  This isn’t because the owners are so eminently “civilized,” but because consumers have struggled and won fight after fight.

In Cuba, however, I’m almost sure that such legislation doesn’t exist (please correct me if I’m mistaken!).  “Consumers’ rights” are only applied (rudimentarily) in the state and corporate sectors.

It seems to me very important to begin distinguishing between private goods for private use and those with public purposes, especially now that it seems there’s going to be more private property in Cuba.

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

2 thoughts on “Private Property & Consumer Rights

  • Dimitri,
    it is called “Breach of Contract”,
    Nepothisem, and in the USA violation of the fair Housing Act of 58,

  • Dmitri, I’m with you on most of what you say. That taxi driver has a responsibility to society to provide a public service.

    On the idea broached by “now that it seems there’s going to be more private property in Cuba,” a certain thing should be made clear about private property in the bridge period between capitalism and a future classless society–commonly called full communism.

    The absence of the legal institution of private productive property in that far-off land of full communism is a theoretical possibility. What Engels and Marx did in the Communist Manifesto was to bring this absence back into the bridge period of socialism and make it into the immediate abolition of private property of full state ownership by government decree. This was a grave error.

    And it made so-called “scientific socialism” essentially the same as the so-called “Utopian socialism” of Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen and all the other privileged-class commune builders.

    All of the problems of unworkability and bureaucracy in Cuba and elsewhere are due to this state monopoly principle. And it makes no sense. If the absence of private property is a feature of the far-in-the-future of full communism, then how can it be forced upon society in the socialist stage, right out of capitalism?

    It cannot, unless one wishes to totally screw up socialist construction. The only valid principle for workable socialism is legal private property, but its domination by direct cooperative worker ownership. Private property is a good thing, but only if it is owned by those who do the work, whether factory worker, independent farmer, or independent taxi driver.

Comments are closed.